In Depth

On the scent: Acqua di Parma's fresh start

The renowned fragrance brand's CEO Laura Burdese on the latest interpretation of its core cologne, and why mastering simplicity is key

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I entered the beauty industry for the first time in 1995, before completely changing paths and working in jewellery and watches until last year, when I was called by the LVMH Group to relaunch Acqua di Parma into the world. It's an amazing brand, so I took up the challenge. In a way, I've gone back to my very first love – after 20 years I'm back here in the beauty industry and it's been a lot of fun.

Back home in Italy, Acqua di Parma is very well known – it has an incredible brand awareness, recalling the most refined Italian lifestyle, quality and craftsmanship. Since the LVMH Group bought the brand in 2001, it has been growing in double digits year after year, but the group had the feeling that it has never fulfilled its true potential. Acqua di Parma has an incredible soul, which to me comes from the fact that it's always been, in a way, unmarketed.

Traditionally, it has been a private scent for a privileged circle, with a certain exclusivity. Because the brand has been so protected in its niche, it has had the time to develop a special identity throughout its hundred-year history, and we really want to show this to the world. We have hundreds of thousands of stories; we just need to tell them. This was the little part that was missing – that emotional link – which was a pity because emotions are very much a part of Italy.

Our key point of difference is our values. First of all, Acqua di Parma is all about mastering simplicity; it's not about frills or showing off, but minimal lines, scents and visual imagery. It's also a sense of perfect imperfection, and we have this true conviction as a brand that things should be made slowly and by hand. This can been seen in everything we do – no two products are exactly the same. In the end, nature is imperfect, and this is what makes it so fascinating.

While Acqua di Parma as a whole has been, and still is, much more than just a fragrance brand, the Colonia is our core, and has been with the brand since its very beginning in 1916. Our latest interpretation, the Colonia Pura, keeps the heart of the original as its base, but is much lighter and fresher. I think this makes this Colonia much more contemporary, because it's really open.

What makes it very special and different from other water-inspired colognes is that it smells like fresh water and not salty water. We wanted it to recall both the freshness and transparency of a mountain river. This is why the colour was also very important. While our original Colonia is more yellowish, this is really clear. It wasn't easy to achieve the fragrance we wanted in terms of smell, alongside the desired transparency.

There's also a novelty to the bottle, which features matte grey details. What I think is incredible about the brand, and that I've always loved, is the shape of the bottle; it has been around for 100 years, but manages to be so modern and contemporary. It's because it has a purity and simplicity, and it's something that we want to magnify because it's an asset that not every brand is lucky to have.

From talking to people in my first months at the brand, most men who use Acqua di Parma have said to me that it's really addictive; if you try Acqua di Parma you will never go back to another fragrance because it's so special – you get used to the importance placed on the details and the very refined structure. So we have very loyal customers. But since we have very loyal customers, every time you launch a new Colonia it's like touching their baby. It's a great responsibility to keep the heritage and the DNA, to retain what the Colonia is and what people expect from it, but to really be able to look to the future and interpret it in a modern way.

LAURA BURDESE began her career in the beauty industry at Beiersdorf and L'Oreal, before moving to Swatch Group. She joined Acqua di Parma as CEO in October 2016, signalling a new chapter for the renowned Italian fragrance house; acquadiparma.com

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